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What Is Team Health and How to Achieve It

Company Culture
Leadership
Psychological Safety
Health / Stress / Burn-Out

11 June, 2022

Tarek Mehrez
Tarek Mehrez

Engineering Manager at Klarna

Tarek Mehrez, Engineering Manager at Klarna, explains what team health entails and shares his advice to managers who want to assess and better their teams.

Evaluating Your Team in a Broader Sense

How do you tell if your team is doing well from a leadership perspective? And what does ‘doing well’ mean?

Junior leaders especially have the inclination to think only in productivity terms. But if you equate ‘doing well’ to ‘delivering a lot of work,’ this will lead to a false sense of security regarding your team’s state.

There are many factors on team health that you need to consider as a manager. People aspects like collaboration, motivation, and individual needs play a strong role in portraying engineering teams. When these are overlooked, you may encounter problems that are much harder to solve compared to just productivity.

Promoting Team Health as a Leader

Shape Your Work Processes Around People

Teams can be highly diverse when it comes to skills and knowledge. You need to first identify your team members’ unique strengths, weaknesses, and preferences to devise the most suitable working environment.

Establishing both hard and soft skills matrices will help you paint an accurate picture. What are people most knowledgeable about? Which systems are they specialized in? How do they like to work? Are they more comfortable with working individually or in teams? Use this data to devise a role distribution that works for everyone.

Show Your Team the Bigger Picture

Individual contributors are focused only on their work most of the time. As a leader, you have much more visibility on the bigger picture; therefore it’s your responsibility to show people where the company is headed and what impact their work had on this.

In simple terms, it’s always good to give your team reminders of why their work is important.

Make Up for Environmental Constraints

Team health relies on individual health. However, in some cases, individual needs can be quashed by environmental constraints— lack of resources, project strategy, business needs, or whatnot.

For example, someone can be passionate about practicing a skill or using a technology, yet it’s not in the team’s best interest to pursue that. In this case, a leader needs to do two things:

  1. Explain to the person why their desires cannot be met, giving good reasons.
  2. Provide alternative opportunities better suited for both the individual and the business.

Get Feedback on How People Are Feeling

It’s easy to fall into the trap of monitoring deliverables only.

“Are deliverables being met on time?” “No.” “Okay, let’s make a plan to streamline efficiency.”

Most managers have had this dialogue, either on one side or the other. But as a leader, you must also know how your team is feeling. I conduct workshops where I ask my teammates:

  • Are you having fun with what you do?
  • Is the mission and vision clear?
  • Are you learning?
  • How fast do you think we’re progressing?
  • Do you have the support that you need?

And even when you inquire about these things, there’s an additional challenge: remote work. So even if someone is having fun, they’re doing so in their own time. It’s a whole different story when it comes to collaborative work. You need to think of ways to overcome these kinds of issues.

The Mindset Behind Healthy Teams

  • While delivery is essential, you cannot look at it in isolation. Doing so might lead to people problems, and the people aspect is the backbone of team health.
  • It takes time to understand what a high-performing team is. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to determining team health.
  • Evaluating team health is a continuous process. You assess on your own, get feedback from your team, plan for improvement, and reiterate.
  • All being said, the reality of the business impact cannot be ignored. You need to check your roadmap items. You need to deliver your mission. Most importantly, you need to bring value to your customers.

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